Tuesday, January 11, 2011

McQuaig on the Gabrielle Giffords Assassination

Here are the opening paragraphs from an excellent opinion piece by Linda McQuaig in the Toronto Star:
While denouncing suicide bombers is the bread and butter of U.S. politics, there was barely a murmur of outrage last February when a suicide bomber flew a plane into a Texas office building, killing one office worker and injuring 13 others.

The extraordinarily muted response can only be explained by the fact that the suicide bomber, Joe Stack, had made it clear his anger was directed against U.S. tax authorities — an anger shared by many powerful interests on the right.

Accordingly, politicians and media commentators — ever deferential to the right — treaded carefully. An interviewer on ABC’s Good Morning America even asked Stack’s adult daughter if she considered her father a hero. (She did.)

A similar tolerance towards violence and intimidation from the right is evident in the response to the attempted assassination of Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

While there’s been much outrage over the Tucson violence, there’s been a reluctance among mainstream commentators and politicians to pin the blame where it belongs — on the kind of hostile, right-wing extremism that implicitly promotes political violence.
Go read the whole article, it is well worth your time.

She makes the excellent point that commentators who talk of "violence from both right and left" are obfuscating the truth. The overwhelming rhetoric of violence comes from the right. There are pockets of extremist violence from isolated (and probably certifiably insane) voices on the left. And this is echoed by similar crazies on the right. But there is a well-funded, mainstream rhetoric of violence supported by major TV networks (Fox "News"), radio stations, and political leaders. This isn't matched on the left.

And, as McQuaig points out, here is the sad reality in Canada:
In Canada, there’s now a similar tolerance for violent talk from the right — talk that goes even beyond the gun imagery of the Tea Party.

Last fall, Tom Flanagan, a former close adviser to Stephen Harper, told CBC host Evan Solomon that he thought WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange “should be assassinated, actually. I think Obama should put out a contract and maybe use a drone or something.”

Viewer Janet Reymond sent Flanagan an email protesting his advocacy of assassination, and received a one-line email back saying “Better be careful, we know were you live.”

Flanagan, who teaches political science at the University of Calgary, later apologized, calling his words “glib and thoughtless.”

Imagine how long the CBC would tolerate a leftist commentator calling for the assassination of a public figure (if there were leftist commentators on the CBC, that is).

But the University of Calgary has said no disciplinary action is considered against Flanagan who is still, unbelievably, a regular CBC commentator.
Thirty years ago the CBC was a bastion of left wing thought. But after years of budget cuts that terrified management of CBC into "broadening" its spectrum of opinion, most of the voices on the left have been removed, the centrists remain, but now the CBC is well populated by voices from the right. Just what you would fear would happen to a government communications medium when the political right takes power for a number of years.

The left has never really had power in Canada. It has either been the centre-right Liberals or the right wing Conservatives. What leftists voices there were on CBC came from hiring the young still idealist before reality jaded them into moving into management or toning down their idealism to conform the the centre-right requirements of success.

Despite this lean to the right, the person most Canadians most admire remains Tommy Douglas, the firebrand preacher, leftist politician, who brought public health care to Canadians. Douglas was "so dangerous" that half a century later the Canadian secret police, CSIS, are still fighting any release of their spy material as "too dangerous" for poor Canadians to handle. From the Toronto Star:
Canada’s spy agency is pulling out all the stops to block the release of decades-old intelligence on socialist icon Tommy Douglas.

In an affidavit filed in Federal Court, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service argues that full disclosure of the file on Douglas could endanger the lives of confidential informants and jeopardize the agency’s ability to conduct secret surveillance.

Indeed, CSIS suggests its very raison d’ĂȘtre would be imperilled by releasing the information compiled on the one-time Saskatchewan premier and federal NDP leader, widely revered as the father of medicare.

“Secrecy is intrinsic to security intelligence matters,” Nicole Jalbert, the agency’s access to information and privacy coordinator, says in the affidavit filed late last month.
Funny... the most respected Canadian was also probably one of the most harrassed and spied upon Canadians. The power elite in Canada didn't like him. He scared them.

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